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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories

GROWING UP IN ENGLAND LANE


PETER BARTLE SMITH

I was born in Island Court in 1935 and lived with my mum, dad, brother James and sisters Joan and Lorna. My younger sister, Maureen, was born after we moved to England Lane.

I have no recollection of my early years in Aire Street, but what a wonderful time I had growing up in England Lane. There was Gouldings' Farm with its barn, old buildings, two cottages and an abundance of quarries which we soon discovered.

Through the farm was the mowing field where they kept a wonderful horse called Dolly. I am not sure whether it belonged to one of the Gouldings' daughters, Sadie, Pat or Kathleen.

Across from the barn was the 'BB Quarry' - aptly named because the 'Boys Brigade' used it - then the Austerberry Quarry - named because the Austerberry family lived next door to it! Going up the lane under the railway bridge to the left, was the tip, or landfill as they are now known. To the right towards Cattle Laithe, was the lime quarry and Harkers, which was named after the family who lived in the gatehouse. They had a wonderful old Hansom Cab in their garden.

I started Church School in 1940. My sister Lorna and her friend, Mary, took me on my first day and I was fortunate that Miss Elm was teaching me for my first year. Once I was settled in school I made lots of friends and we soon discovered most of the quarries mentioned above. There was myself, Cliff Armitage, Granville Austerberry, Dickie Lee, the Emmerson's, Lightowler's, Brian and Eric Barnaby and the Hiorns twins, Willie and Tommy (nicknamed Lanky).

There were some lovely old characters about; George Goulding the farmer, Sammy Carrol who lived in one of the cottages joined on to the farm buildings. Mr Sugden lived in a caravan up the Middle Lane but I cannot remember what his job was. Then Granville's uncle, Slogger Wild, who kept pigeons, and one old chap, whose name I think was Joe Eels, and who lived in some old cottages past Metcalfe’s Farm. He came down once a week for his shopping. He wore a bowler hat and carried a cardboard box tied with string. He also had his trouser bottoms tied with string and I believe some old locals called them 'Brotherton Bike Clips'.

Not forgetting Buller Wild, a harmless man. My mum would bake an apple pie and say, "Give it to him and say it doesn't matter about returning the saucer".

Once we had the lie of the land, each quarry had a different use. In the BB Quarry, we played football, cricket and the usual Cowboys and Indians and war games.

On the railway bank there was a nice elevated grassy section which we called the "Isle of Man".

In the Lime Quarry, there was a man named ‘Challo’ working there, (most Knottingley people will remember him) and he used to show us how they built the kilns and fired them to make the lime. There was a lovely sandy bank there and we would get the lime bags and slide down. How my four lovely grandsons would have enjoyed that - but not the patches on our pants we had to wear afterwards.

It is sad to see the state of the bridges leading up to Cattle Laithe and the beautiful Harkers Quarry. Many a courting couple used it, but little did they know us giggling little terrors were watching them!

Threshing time on the farm was another experience. Old George, Tom, Derrick and Billy Goulding, plus Challo and Will Moon, all mucked in along with all the kids who followed the thresher up to the farm. I remember our job was carrying bags of chaff into one of the lofts. At the end of the day, Challo would throw us all in - all part of the fun. I can't remember if we ever got any pay - I will have to have a word with Billy about it! I think Mrs Goulding and Sadie would have provided drinks.

The war was well on its way by now. We had our gas masks for school and we would go to the Palace Cinema to see the news. I was fortunate because my dad worked part-time there so I was let in without paying. Also, Mr. Wood, who owned the Palace, would give my dad some of his son’s old toys; Robert I think it was, which was wonderful for me at the time.

When the war ended we had bonfires and parties in the streets and all the tension seemed to disappear from people’s faces. Then came the new extensions to England Lane with Poskitt's building new houses and prefabs. We had a riot of a time playing in the partly-built houses and piles of sand until the night watchman chased us off. I think we named him 'Tommy Touch It'.

Then came the wonderful summer and winter of 1947. I think most of us learned to swim in the 'swimming quarry' where the High School football field is now situated. Following this came the big freeze. We played ice hockey with sticks and tin cans, and made home made sledges with timber from Bagley’s. One time we were on the ice and Roy Blakeston fell in. Luckily an older boy, Bob Bedford, was there and managed to pull him out. Sadly, Roy is no longer with us.

By now I was at Ropewalk School and one of my jobs before school was going down Aire Street to Smith’s Butchers for the meat. I don't think my grandsons would appreciate that job now.

Next door to us lived the Oakes family. Mrs Oakes was a widow bringing up five children - what a lady she was. The oldest was Derrick, a good cartoon artist, then Raymond, Pearl, Brian and Gordon. Who can remember Brian's nickname after the summer of 1947, and Gordon walking on his hands to Rogers shop and back? Some feat that!

Kite flying was another pastime. We had all the yellow string from Bagley's joined together and there were knots every few feet or so. Wilfred Rhodes, a draughtsman at the time, taught us how to make kites of different shapes and sizes. Cliff and I still tell the tale that Wilfred's kite flew as far as Kellingley pit - well it seemed that far to us at the time.

In the winter we had some memorable bonfire nights with toffee, sloppy peas, parkin, playing hide and seek, kick can and ‘if you don't shout holler we won’t follow’.

Ropewalk School was a happy time. Miss Dot Wilson was my favourite teacher and who could forget Mr. Luke when he read Scrooge at Christmas time. His expressions were better that Alistair Sims'.

I'll never forget Joe Jessop. One day in PT, the horse was fairly high but me being small, I was determined to get over it. I gritted my teeth and over I went. Mr. Jessop called me over and said, "Smith, you have a heart like a lion!" Those words have stayed with me through my National Service and all my working life.

Peter Bartle-Smith (Nimbo)

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